Travel

Rome 2020 || Long Weekend Away

Thursday:

The flight to Rome was fairly easy, it left on time and arrived on schedule, there was some turbulence but having traveled a lot over the last couple of years this has started to bother me less and less. Since we hadn’t checked in a bag we should have gotten off the plane and through customs quickly but Haydn thought I was still on the plane so stood waiting by the gate for ages meaning we ended up taking ages to get through the airport. We also had to be screened for Coronavirus, which added more time.

Once out of the airport we were pleasantly surprised to feel the sunshine, which made it feel like a summer holiday despite still being early February. We bought a return ticket on a coach to the main transport hub in Rome, this was around €9 each but we could have gotten it cheaper if we had used the public shuttle bus. It takes about 40 minutes to get from the airport to the centre of Rome and from there it was another 20-minute walk to our hotel. We stay in The Best Western Hotel President which I cannot recommend highly enough, we found a great price with breakfast included and we were able to check in early which is always appreciated. The room was basic but very clean and the bed was comfy so there was definitely no complaints there. Haydn wanted to freshen up before we went back out so I took the opportunity to have a rest and see what was nearby the hotel to explore that afternoon.

The Colosseum

The Colosseum was just a 15 minute walk away from where we were staying and since we didn’t have much energy we decided to do that first since we didn’t have to venture to far and could head back easily if we got tired. Along the way we stopped for lunch at a random café that selled paninis, wow did we make a mistake not checking trip advisor. This was definitely not the lunch we had both imagined, my salami panini came with what I can only describe as seaweed which tasted vile and Haydn’s had mozzarella balls that despite being toasted stay as one chunky, cold lump. We did the British thing and smiled politely, paid and left having only eating a couple of bites each.

Haydn and I at the Colosseum

We carried on to the Colosseum with the plan of getting something else, including local snacks later. Haydn and I loved the Colosseum, it is by far one of the most beautiful pieces of history we have seen on our travels. We aren’t massive history nerds but do find it fairly interesting and so decided that later during our trip we would pay to go into the Colosseum and The Roman Forum which is located just opposite. We took a few photos and did a lap before deciding to wonder some more.

Strike a pose in front of the Colosseum

This led us to the ‘Altar of the Fatherland’ known locally as Victor Emmanuel II Monument. One thing that continued to surprise me about Rome was the scale of all the ancient architecture. The monument was massive and just so impressive to look at. We were able to go most of the way to the top and look out across the city. The view was great and the weather was still holding out for us, which made the entire afternoon even more enjoying. Haydn even joked that he wished he’d worn shorts the sun was that hot.

Altar of the Fatherland

After we had finished exploring a few of the iconic places we were pretty much exhausted so decided to grab a quick bit to eat from a nearby Mcdonalds before heading back to the hotel. I know, we are such bad tourists when it comes to food but for us it’s more about enjoying to local architecture and less about the local cuisine.

Altar of the Fatherland

Friday:

After a good rest we were ready for a full day or Rome sightseeing so decided to plan a route that incorporated a lot. This first meant walking about 30 minutes to Trevi Fountain, this is very clearly one of the most popular tourist attractions as wow was it busy! Gorgeous but busy and so after we’d snapped a couple of photos (and been told off for sitting on the edge) we decided to carry on walking as it didn’t seem like a good spot to stop for a rest.

Trevi Fountain

Next, we ended up finding The Pantheon, which actually blew my mind! The roof is literally an architectural mind-fu*k, it’s so big and in fact it holds a record for being the ‘Largest unreinforced solid concrete dome in the world till present.’ This is just one of the many facts that make this sight one that is truly unmissable if you are visiting Rome. Plus there is an ice cream parlour in that square that sells the most amazing ice cream we’ve ever tasted.

Roman Pantheon

Ice cream in hand we continued wondering through the streets of Rome towards St Angelo Bridge but another street grabbed our attention and so we took a detour to explore Piazza Navona. Which is a really cute Roman square with eateries and shops around the edge and the stunning Fiumi Fountain or ‘Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi ‘ if you want the local name. This like the rest of Rome that we had so far seen was incredibly white and to a huge scale. It is amazing how ancient architecture has been so well persevered despite being out in the open vulnerable to weather. The sun was shining once again and so we sat on a bench in the square to finish our ice cream before carrying on with our own tour or Rome.

Fiumi Fountain

St Angelo Bridge didn’t live up to the hype for us. Whilst the views down the river brank were quite pretty the architecture along the bridge just had to much competition in in the beautiful city and therefore we didn’t stay only, merely walked across it once and carried on with our day. Even more disappointingly the bridge has become a hub or scam artists and it is almost impossible to make it across the bridge without at least one street vendor approaching you and trying to sell you a bracelet, a bottle of water or a selfie stick. We always try and be respectful of these workers, many of who are just trying to make a living but in this circumstance it was quite overwhelming.

St Angelo Bridge

Once over the bridge though we were on to good things as we were now approaching Vatican City. Walking down the street towards St Peter’s Basilica Haydn and I both felt as though we were walking down Disneyland’s Main Street USA, the wide street, cute houses, stores and eateries all framed the renaissance style church beautifully and really does set up the experience nicely. We hadn’t bought tickets to visit the museums in Vatican city so instead of entering the city we walked around the edge and appreciated from a far.

Vatican City

Our crazy day of walking was almost complete and next we hand wondered to Villa Borghese, a local green space that has pretty gardens and many different sections to explore. We wondered this until we were starting to get hungry and decided that on our route back to the hotel we would stop somewhere along the way (checking TripAdvisor reviews first) and have something to eat. This tactic led us to find somewhere yummy, but I cannot find the name anywhere and since we took a random route back I can’t retrace our steps either! However, we had a great meal here and both enjoyed a delicious pizza and a refreshing drink, which we needed after a really long day of walking. Plus the dessert was amazing!

View from St Angelo Bridge

Finally we headed back to the hotel and grabbed some extra snacks along the way, I still had a big back of crisps and some mini wafer bites but Haydn had eaten all of his from the previous day so we needed to stock up again.

Saturday:

Inside the Colosseum

This was our final real day in Rome as the following day we had to be up relatively early in order to catch our return flight to Manchester. This worked well for us though as we had mostly explored everywhere on our list the previous day and just had a couple more things we wanted to do, including buying a ticket to go in the Colosseum and The Roman Forum. We went to the Colosseum first and with some luck Haydn found a EU pass that enabled us entry for just €4 however the first available time slot wasn’t until that afternoon. So we detoured from the Colosseum and headed towards another park that I had put on our list of things to do.

Knights of Malta Keyhole – credit Wikipedia

Aventine Hill has one of the coolest views in all of Rome, the Knights of Malta Keyhole – which as the name suggests is a view you can see only by looking through a tiny keyhole in a massive door at the top of the hill. There was a small line to look through but in comparison to the busy streets we’d walked away from just 20 minutes before hand this place was practically deserted. We had a peak through the key hole and then walked back down the hill deciding that we would do a big lap back to the Colosseum to kill time before our entry slot.

Inside the Colosseum

The big lap lead us to find another ice cream parlour which just like the first did not disappoint. Here we were able to pick 3 scoops for a cheap price of around €3. This was such a delicious treat and was definitely worth the little extra walk. We then ended up back at the Colosseum and were able to redeem our tickets to go in. Once inside we did several laps exploring the different levels of the Colosseum and read a few of the information boards that helped us to better understand this amazing piece of history. One of the facts that has stuck in my mind is that the Roman Emperor would purposely fill the Colosseum with water to re-enact sea battles.

Roman Forum

The tickets we had bought also gave us access to the Roman Forum which made the €4 euro ticket even more worthwhile than it already was. This place was beautiful with so many different paths to explore. We stayed here until close making sure we could fit as much in as possible. Some of the views were particularly stunning and like many other tourists, I couldn’t help but pose for a few pictures. The way this place has been persevered really makes it feel as though you are walking around real ancient Rome with ruins being left for you to explore up close.

Haydn with the view from Aventine Hill

After we left the Roman Forum we headed back to the hotel to change before dinner. Since the trip had been for my birthday we decided our last meal would be a little bit special and so picked out a nice place to go for dinner which had great reviews and was highly recommended. The Italians like many other Europeans seemed to eat quite late as we headed out for dinner around 6 ish and were one of the only couples sat in the restaurant. The service was great and I enjoyed a tasty Carbonara whilst Haydn had giant macaroni mushrooms and cheese. Both dishes smelt amazing and since we had also had bread for starters neither of us could manage dessert. We had eaten just around the corner from the Colosseum and so decided to head back to get a look at the ancient architecture in the dark – we are both so glad we did this as it was so pretty to see in this different way and was much quieter than during the day. 

Colosseum at night

Sunday:

Our morning went perfectly, the bus to the airport was on time and we were able to get through security quickly. Even more surprisingly, Ryanair were running on time despite the fact that the UK was battling a major storm. I was fairly anxious to fly given the wind and rain conditions back home but the flight went fine and even towards the end it felt like fairly smooth flying.

Overall, we had a great mini trip to Rome and if you haven’t been before I highly recommend going. It makes for a great short European city trip as I feel like you are able to get round everything major in a couple of days and still have time to throw in a few extra places that take your fancy. Plus it often comes up on Skyscanner with good flight times for a reasonable price. Thanks for reading, hope you’ve enjoyed this travel blog – I know it’s taken me ages to get it out but it’s finally up! Sadly our upcoming trip to Paris has been cancelled and I’m not holding out much hope for our summer trip either but trying to be optimistic since there are definitely worst situations to be in right now.

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